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Will going vegan make you mentally ill? Probably not.

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Last year, Women’s Health Magazine published a bonkers and bullshit article called “The Scary Mental Health Risks of Going Meatless.” Having struggled and publicly fought my own mental illness for a number of years now, I just about threw my laptop across the room when I read the headline… but I thought that maybe that would compromise my status as a mental health warrior and worry the neighbors. “Women are vegging out… of their minds,” warned Women’s Health. There’s plenty of hand wringing over nutrition (but what about the B12?!) but more dangerously, the article completely ignores the difference between correlation and causation. A few doctors throw out anecdotes about sad vegetarians and proudly proclaim how they insisted their patients eat steak instead of, you know, respecting their choices and doing their damndest to work in a partnership. Maybe I just expect too much from doctors these days.

While the “evidence” provided in the article are merely excerpts from chats with physicians, some statistics were shared that are worth noting. According to Women’s Health, “…it was startling last year when Australian researchers revealed that vegetarians reported being less optimistic about the future than meat eaters. What’s more, they were 18 percent more likely to report depression and 28 percent more likely to suffer panic attacks and anxiety. A separate German study backs this up, finding that vegetarians were 15 percent more prone to depressive conditions and twice as likely to suffer anxiety disorders.” While I can’t argue those numbers, what I can and will argue is that there is more than meets the eye with these statistics.

So, what are a few more realistic reasons that people who are vegan might also happen to deal with mental illness?

Vegans tend to lean left, and leftists simply aren’t as happy as conservatives.

Ignorance is bliss, and no offense meant to the random right wing reader following this leftist vegan magazine, but being a clueless conservative is a one way ticket to happy-town. While no Very Official Study has been run on vegan political leanings, animal rights discussions rarely, if ever, are discussed within a conservative praxis. A shocker, I know, but veganism is a leftist-dominated movement.

Conservatives are a cheery bunch, and not always for the most complementary reasons. According to a Pew survey and reported by Salon, “47 percent of conservative Republicans said they were “very happy,” compared with just 28 percent of liberal Democrats. Furthermore, the Pew Survey found that this result could not simply be attributed to the seemingly obvious cause: differences in income levels between the left and the right. Rather, for every income group in the study, conservative Republicans were happier than Democrats.” As conservatives aren’t exactly known for their, er, level of empathy, Salon took it a step further by elaborating upon how “the conservative tendency to rationalize politically or economically unequal social systems – to overlook how the other half is forced to live, either through simple dismissiveness, or affirmation of the fairness of free markets and meritocracies – also confers happiness.” Allow me to translate: What Salon is saying is that conservatives are some very simple folk.

Because the truth is pretty fucking sad!

After watching Cowspiracy and Earthlings, it’s easy to fall into a bit of a depressive slump after being sucker punched by the truth and having disturbing imagery forever burned into your brain. Let’s face it: going vegan makes many people emotionally vulnerable, since the information uncovered during the process of making the change is often disturbing and upsetting. Pile vitriol and bullying on top of this, and it makes the act of eating and living vegan look like easy pancakes as compared to doing all that and being out and proud about it.

Ever heard the term “activist burnout?” It’s a real thing, and it’s caused by the grueling heart-work required by social change activists. All activists for justice based causes can suffer from it at some point, as having to constantly think about big questions is mentally exhausting. Self care and taking time to (god forbid!) do work, watch a movie, or take part in an activity that has little to do with vegan activism goes a very, very long way. We’re carrying some heavy stuff on our shoulders, people! Take a bath and try not to spill any (vegan friendly) champagne in the tub.

Because they may have struggled long before going vegan.

My mental health issues were present long before I went vegan. They existed long before I was even a vegetarian. Hell, my mental health issues were even prominent when I went through a Fox News phase in middle school and pledged to hold a strong moral stance against hippies and vegans as long as I may live. Veganism didn’t set off any of my my mental health issues, so I hate to disappoint Women’s Health, but I’m quite sure other sick vegans would say the same exact same thing.

Mental illness, as difficult as it is to deal with, gives many sufferers an extra dose of empathy, self awareness, and understanding, so I’m rarely surprised to learn that another vegan friend of mine might have health struggles of their own.

In short, veganism isn’t going to make you mentally ill. Might there be a few anecdotal pieces of evidence to the contrary? Perhaps, but outliers aren’t the standard. If you’re a vegan and you’re struggling, know that there is a community out there who want to listen, want to help, and want to support you.

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  • AlpineDan

    The amount and degree of stupidity of anti-vegan propaganda out there is amazing.

  • AlpineDan

    The Women’s Health article mentions that we mutured mentally beyond our ape siblings (chimps). Unfortunately, as a species, we haven’t matured morally beyond them, and appear to be quite a bit slower than them in that area. And chimps aren’t known as moral geniuses.

  • Pratha

    Going vegan has many profound benefits in regards to the psychotropic potentiality of one’s mind. One fond memory comes to mind in particular…

    My friend Srinivas, lady friend Smupa and I were on a small boat in the vast ocean. Suddenly enormous bubbles surfaced just under us, nearly capsizing our tiny vessel. It was then that a profusely foul odor was produced. I began to hallucinate upon a starry midday perch while Srinivas began to vomit all of the frustrations dwelling in his mind and stomach. Smupa began to smile in a most uncontrollable manner while snorting more funny stuff.

    I then immersed mind body and soul into the collage of colors and emotional isotopes surrounding our essence. My mind was transported back to the age of my love’s aquamarine visions, recalling the existential blockage that was soon breached. The quickly vacating negativity of life’s many preoccupations were vanquished, reminding me of the many egomaniacal blowhards and their rantings, whence they were justifiably summoned to another parallel existence.

    I was then transported back to the present, and Smupa then broke wind from the bottom. This served as an epiphany. I then posited that whales must fart. How else could we explain the bubbles that nearly capsized us?

    Within a fortnight, Smupa came to me with her research. Following is a transcript of her findings:

    The short answer is yes, whales do indeed fart, flatus or pass gas depending on how you like to phrase it.

    In fact whales, dolphins and porpoises are all marine mammals belonging to the cetacean species and they are all known to fart.

    Today there are around 80 – 90 known species of cetacea currently in existence and they encompass all of the worlds major oceans from the tropics to the coldest of the northern and southern polar hemispheres.

    When it comes to passing gas, farting is a common characteristic that most land and marine mammals have in common with one another.

    Passing gas allows animals to release air that is trapped inside their stomach, which could lead to digestive problems, stomach cramps or other complications if not removed from the body.

    When an animal passes gas or farts the air that comes out of the body comes primarily from two main sources.

    The first source comes from oxygen that is pulled in through the air either while breathing (inhaling and exhaling) or when consuming food or drinking water; and since all mammals eat food and require oxygen to survive they all take in air.

    The second source of air or gas comes from food that is broken down by enzymes, stomach acids and bacteria in the stomach, which creates toxic gasses that need to be removed from the body to prevent it from doing harm to the individuals digestive system.

    In order to release these gases animals need a way to expel them from the body and for most mammals this means that the toxic gas has to exit through either the mouth, which causes burping or through the anal tract which causes farting.

    The gases that are expelled from a fart are mostly composed of hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane.

    The reason some gasses smell worse than others is because of the breakdown of the foods involved.

    Certain foods can cause obnoxious orders when released as gas while others do not.

    From some of the statements researchers have made about whales farting they have concluded that yes, it stinks when a whale farts.

    When a whale farts or passes gas underwater the sound is believed to be suppressed by the surrounding water making it silent or at least quite compared to the gas that is expelled from land based animals.

    In some cases bubbles or clouds can be seen rising to the surface of the water when a whale passes gas.

    Those most likely to experience whales farting are likely to be researchers involved in following whales and researching their dung or gathering information about their gestation period, habitat, social structure and other important factors.

    In some cases this may also be observed by tourists and whale watchers that are hoping to get a glance of these marine mammals in their natural habitat.

    Unfortunately not much research has been done on this topic, however there have been researchers who have experienced and confirmed that yes whales do indeed fart.

  • ModVegan

    So true! There’s been a lot of evidence that depressives have a more realistic (and empathetic!) view of the world in general. It makes sense that we would be more open to the facts surrounding animal exploitation. Correlation does not equal causation – just because vegans see the world as it is doesn’t mean veganism causes mental illness! Good grief. Like you, I had some serious issues long before I was vegan. I can’t believe the kind of poorly researched garbage that gets published in the name of health. By the same token, an evidence-based approach to anything is considered slightly unbalanced to people on the extreme right (climate change, anyone?), so it’s not that surprising that the same people dismiss concern over animal exploitation as a sign of mental illness!

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